Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Personhood By Stealth.

From RHRealityCheck:

Tomorrow, December 10, 2009 the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case involving the prosecution of a pregnant, drug-using woman. It is an important opportunity to understand the broader issues at stake in cases that seem narrowly focused on the very small percentage of pregnant women who use illegal drugs. Oral argument is scheduled for 10 AM and you will be able to watch a live stream of the arguments by clicking this link.

In this case, the state arrested a new mother who, according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, “ingested cocaine” while her daughter “was in utero and thereafter gave birth.” The daughter was healthy but, according to the Commonwealth, both the mother and newborn tested positive for cocaine. The new mother wasn’t charged with a drug crime – rather she was charged with the crime of “wanton endangerment.” Kentucky alleges that she engaged “in conduct which created a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to” another person – her “unborn” child.

Notice that this law is directed to “conduct” that “creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury.” Many people in positions of power think that a pregnant woman who refuses cesarean surgery, have births outside of hospital settings, or insists on a vaginal birth after previous cesarean surgery is creating a “substantial danger of death or serious physical injury” to an unborn child.

The Commonwealth wants the Kentucky Supreme Court to interpret this law, and, in fact, every criminal law in the state, to include pregnant women in relationship to the fetuses they carry. Indeed, a close reading of the lower court’s opinion and the Commonwealth’s arguments makes clear that they hope, through this court case, to pass what would, in effect, be a “personhood measure.” As a result, even abortions necessary to protect a woman’s life or health could be charged as homicide.

Because of the broad implications of this case and the medical misinformation it relies on, sixty public health and advocacy organizations as well as numerous experts signed on to amicus (friend of the court) briefs explaining why the court should reject the Commonwealth’s invitation to radically re-write state law. Not a single organization filed an amicus brief supporting this kind of dangerous judicial activism. Kentucky treatment and recovery advocates Michael Barry and Pam Scott published an op-ed in the Courier-Journal explaining why Arresting pregnant women is bad for babies.

Read the rest of the article here.

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